I suppose I can screen everyone for this test here and now: have you ever been taken in from the streets by a crisis program?
I suppose the answer is no, so what I describe now will explain why you are an unlikely candidate.
You haven’t endured a household of violence.
You haven’t been victim to sexual exploitation.
You haven’t contended with mental illness.
You haven’t struggled with substance abuse.
No, you haven’t, thankfully.
I haven’t, either.
Others, though, have.
Our obvious prosperity can render us oblivious to an underbelly of destitution and deprivation, harmful and harrowing days and nights of survival mechanisms depleted and subsumed. Vancouver is paradise from 5,000 feet but no oasis under a microscope. We cope with those who cope in ways we would never wish on our families and friends. The web of trauma, addiction, desperate acts to endure – all serve as a framework of entangled despair all too evident in our midst.
I am back again at this time of year to ask for help to perform a little piece of remedial achievement. It is not heroic or substantive. It is a small gesture to make a small difference.
I am outdoors again the night of November 21 for Covenant House. About 50 of us will participate in what is called an “Executive Sleep-Out.” We are privileged to participate and to face only one slightly uncomfortable night in a sleeping bag under the elements. After all, we are but 50. There are, on any given night, 500 to 1,000 young people out there, too.
I asked one of the young people in Covenant House how our temporary experience might compare to his extensive one.
“It’s easy,” he said. “Take off your boots because your feet are swollen and then deal with waking up with the boots stolen.”
Our aim is to raise more than $1 million for this crisis program I earlier mentioned. It is an extraordinary effort run by saintly staff that moves some 400 female-identified, male-identified and non-binary youth annually through a systemic regrouping and resetting of their mauled lives. Nearly three-quarters have witnessed family violence, nearly two-fifths are suffering from mental health challenges and half aged out of foster care at age 19 and had nowhere –nowhere, at all – to go.
The program is part of a continuum of care, including street outreach, a drop-in centre, supportive housing, drug and alcohol counselling, mental health programs and life-skills training. It takes them in, cleanses their systems, counsels their conditions, creates options and opportunities for routines and jobs most of us fail to recognize as challenges for others, and conveys them to safe places upon departure.
I have seen the evidence of the impact, and if you do not trust the perspective of my advantaged perch, then you at least have the opportunity to contribute to it. I want your money to help.
This year, my fourth in the Sleep-Out, I’m condensing my drive into one month, and I need you now to not dither about it.
Covenant House this year opened an extraordinarily creative and innovative facility across the street from its weathered home on Drake at Seymour, which will in turn be demolished to create yet another centre of excellence about which we should be proud – if chagrined that it is needed. There are other fundraising initiatives to build; my initiative is to help pay for the 63 beds in the crisis program.
Yes, this ought to be something our governments could provide, just as we might hope that resources could be applied to the root causes to sever the vicious sequence that brings us here. But hoping for that one day doesn’t absolve us of helping today.
Here comes the commercial: I have started with my own donation at http://support.covenanthousebc.org/goto/klapointe. If you cannot connect with that link, find me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will get the funds to the right place. All donations receive tax receipts.
And for those I know well or even slightly, get ready for a blitz of calls and emails. I’m on the case and have time on my hands. •
Kirk LaPointe is editor-in-chief of Business in Vancouver and vice-president, editorial, at Glacier Media.